TPKs rarely just happen. Normally, the party gets at least several rounds warning going things go horribly wrong. What should they do?
(Art: William McAusland [Outland Arts])
I've blogged before about TPKs (Total Party Kills) and how a GM should deal with them. What I haven't done before is talk about how the PCs can avoid such a catastrophic end to their adventuring careers. Assuming the PCs get some warning of their impending doom they can pursue one of four basic strategies:
- Bribery: If you can't run away and you don't want to surrender, bribery is a great choice. Paying your enemies to go away is a time-honoured tactic and there is no reason it won't work on your foes – particularly if they are not your mortal enemies. Some enemies might covet gold or magic, while others may be satisfied with food. Still others might demand a service of the party for letting them go. All these options are better than dying.
- Fight On: The party may choose to fight on. If they do so, though, they should fight hard. This means pulling out all those one-shot items saved for an emergency and using them! It's always better to expend equipment than to actually die – sometimes this gets forgotten (particularly in games which focus on wealth by character level). if you fight hard and you still die, at least you gave it your best shot.
- Run Away: If things look grim, the party can always run away. Extricating the entire group from combat can be tricky and so everyone needs to be on-board with this strategy. Sometimes, a heroic party member will stay behind to hold off their enemies while the others escape. Alternatively, scattering loot or food behind you as you flee is a good way of slowing down pursuit.
- Surrender: PCs almost never use this option. Nevertheless, surrender is a viable option if you want to live to fight another day. Sometimes, PCs are reluctant to surrender because subconsciously they know what they do to those falling into their hands! (And hell, the party are good-aligned, imagine what the evil villain will do to them...) PCs that surrender are rarely killed out of hand. Their foes may imprison them for ransom, save them for a starring role in an upcoming religious ceremony or sell them into slavery. Assuming they are not killed outright, PCs that surrender normally have a chance to escape and to turn the tables on their foes before their doom is upon them.
Have you almost had a TPK recently? How did you dodge it? Let us know in the comments below and remember you can download this – and every other advice article – for free at ragingswan.com/articles.